Would you stake your life on the Gospel? | Daily Office Devotional 2021/8/25

While he was making this defense, Festus exclaimed, “You are out of your mind, Paul! Too much learning is driving you insane!” But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking the sober truth. Indeed the king knows about these things, and to him I speak freely; for I am certain that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” Agrippa said to Paul, “Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian?”a Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that not only you but also all who are listening to me today might become such as I am—except for these chains.”

Then the king got up, and with him the governor and Bernice and those who had been seated with them; and as they were leaving, they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to the emperor.”

When it was decided that we were to sail for Italy, they transferred Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort, named Julius. Embarking on a ship of Adramyttium that was about to set sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. The next day we put in at Sidon; and Julius treated Paul kindly, and allowed him to go to his friends to be cared for. Putting out to sea from there, we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. After we had sailed across the sea that is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship bound for Italy and put us on board. We sailed slowly for a number of days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, and as the wind was against us, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. Sailing past it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea.

Acts 26:24-27:8

It is not surprising that Festus made his exclamation when Paul mentioned Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Bodily resurrection was a ludicrous notion to Gentiles (non-Jews), and Paul had previously elicited the same reaction from the Athenians at the Areopagus when he spoke of God raising Jesus from the dead (17.32). Not only that, his testimony of obeying and spreading the teachings of a crucified insurrectionist is simply asinine. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1.22-23, “For … Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a … foolishness to Gentiles.” To live one’s entire life on the basis of such absurd convictions as Paul did was insanity to Festus.

However, Paul showed himself to be a man who would unflinchingly stake his entire life on the “foolish” message of the death and resurrection of Jesus. He would persuade anyone, anywhere, at anytime to receive this message of Jesus. Throughout the entire hearing, Paul was unconcerned to save his own life, but only concerned about the good news of Jesus. Instead of arguing for his freedom, he attempted to persuade the Jewish Agrippa and Bernice to embrace the Christian faith. Paul was also happy to suffer so that the good news may be brought to the ends of the earth. While he did not have to go to Rome for the imperial tribune, he insisted, probably with the hope of persuading even more people to become Christians. This he did when he finally arrived in Rome after an arduous sea journey (28).

Are we willing to live in accordance to the seemingly “foolish” message of the death and resurrection of Jesus? Are we willing to stake our lives on the good news of Jesus? How that might look like may differ from person to person, but it will always involve a life that is being set apart, that is lived for Jesus. Sometimes, that may involve pain and suffering. In Paul’s case it led him to this:

Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches. (1 Corinthians 11.24-28)

Certainly, such sacrifices for the good news of Jesus crucified and risen might seem like insanity to a world that does not know God. Why give up the pleasures of the world for a silly belief that a condemned and executed Jew rose from the dead? However, for someone whose life has been radically changed by the power of that message, nothing can be more joyous than seeing others receive that and turn to Jesus for their salvation.

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